Saturday, June 23, 2012

A Five Minute Friend

Running a cash register in a liquor store is a boring, repetitive job. You handle approximately 100,000,000 bottles of booze a shift. "You want a box or a couple of bags?" Ask the same question a million times. "Choose debit or credit, it's gonna ask you for your zip code, press yes, sign on the dotted line." Give the same directions a million times. Mindless. You have to walk people through this crap because apparently drinkers can't read. And people get it wrong, continuously, so you have to back track and get it right. As the line gets longer.
You have the same conversations over and over and over. I ask "How you doing?" They say "Living the dream." A lot of people say that. There are the mindless who say it because it is the thing to say. Sadly, there are a hell of a lot of people who say it with naked bitterness because the sarcasm defines their life.
By the way, my standard answer to that comment is "Aren't we all." Amazingly witty and creative.
I get the weather report 318 times a day. I hate weather.
I tell them to have a good weekend and they pat their bag and say "I will now."
They tell me to sell them the winning lottery ticket. 474 times a day.
But there are gems. I live for the gems.
Had a guy in his mid eighties come through yesterday. He said something about his wife, I asked him how long he had been married and he told me it was over sixty years. Couldn't tell me exactly how long and he dismissed that detail as if it weren't relevant. Not sarcastically, just matter of fact like the exact number was not important.
Which it is not. When you have been married that long, your marriage is a living, breathing organism. You are unique. Your marriage is a celebration of two people living their lives for each other and together; it doesn't need to be measured.
Some how we got to the subject of cars and he reminisced about a car he bought a long time ago. A Chevy convertible. He said when he bought it, he had them match the color of the roof to the color of the body. So from a distance, with the top up, you couldn't tell it was a convertible.
He said this with a gleam in his eye, he was proud of this detail, it was a fond memory for him. So cool. He told me they didn't put the top down much but they still enjoyed having a convertible.
Since he had three large bottles of booze in the bag (the secret to his longevity?) I asked if he needed help. He declined, saying his wife was waiting for him and he would be OK.
Then he told me about the car his wife is currently driving. A car he bought her a couple of years ago. He drives it too but she does most of the driving because it is her car. A Pontiac Grand Am. A Grand Am with power everything, which again he told me with great pride. I was humbled to see the pleasure he got from spoiling his wife, even after all these years.
I asked him one more time if he needed help. He said nope, all he had to do was make it to the car. Then he added "Of course it's a bit of a walk because she always parks half a mile away from the store."
Ever the husband.
Conversations like these happen a lot, and they make up for all the morons. It usually happens with old people, and you know my theory why.
Old people ain't got nothing to prove, baby. We waste our time acting tough and pretending to have all the answers, but we don't know a goddamn thing and we are definitely not tough.
Old people have lived a life, they know how it goes. You cannot surprise them, you can only disappoint them. Their conversations are honest; no false bravado, no games. Such a refreshing change.
And they are OK with their humanity. They are looking for a sympathetic ear or a little warmth or some brief company. They are not trying to outdo you, they don't have an agenda, they are not trying to manipulate you.
Humanity as honest as it gets.
After a conversation like that, I usually relax my grip on the Uzi I keep stashed under the counter.

No comments:

Post a Comment